Thanksgiving Series No. 1-The Turkey

It’s almost Turkey Time and many of us are starting to prepare our menus for the Big Day. We hosted our first Thanksgiving last year and we were really nervous. It feels so overwhelming and intimidating to host such a special dinner for a lot of people. If you take it a step at a time and plan ahead, it really is not bad. We will be hosting Thanksgiving at our home again this year. I have to admit that I am still nervous about it so I am posting this series to help you and me too! Let’s get started!

The turkey is really the main event at Thanksgiving and deserves and requires the most attention.

Selecting the Perfect Turkey:
To have enough for your Thanksgiving feast and enough for the ever popular leftovers, allow 1 pound of turkey for every person. Make sure that the turkey you choose is plump and meaty with smooth, moist skin. The cut ends of the bone should be pink to red in color. If you decide on buying a fresh turkey, make sure that you will be cooking 1 to 2 days after buying and store it in the refrigerator. If you buy a frozen bird, it will keep for up to 6 months and follow the thawing instructions offered below.

Thawing: There are three safe ways to thaw your turkey.

1. Slowly thaw in the refrigerator. Place your turkey (keep in packaging) on a platter to catch juices. You should allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of whole turkey. So, an 8-12 pound turkey will take about 2 days to completely thaw.
2. Slowly thaw in cold water. If you need to quickly thaw a turkey, then place the turkey still in its original packaging in your sink or container filled with cold water. Make sure to change out the water often. Allow 30 minutes for every 5 pounds of turkey. So, an 8-12 pound turkey will take about 5 hours to thaw.
3. Microwave. I don’t recommend this method, but it can be done in a pinch if you need to thaw the turkey very quickly. Remove the turkey from its packaging and follow your microwaves thawing directions.

Preparing Your Turkey: If you have decided to stuff your bird, make sure to do it right before cooking to avoid bacterial contamination. Make sure you never prestuff a turkey and then store in the refrigerator or freezer.

1. Take your turkey out of the packaging and make sure to remove the package of giblets. Seriously, make sure to remove the giblets-lol! My mom has forgotten before…not pretty. If you are making gravy from the giblets, then set aside. If not, then discard the giblets.
2. Wash out the neck and cavity of the bird with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the skin and cavity of the bird with salt. However, if you are stuffing the turkey, do not salt the cavity.
3. Stuff turkey if you would like. I honestly prefer not to because it is more difficult to get a juicy bird. If you decide to though, make sure you pack the stuffing lightly since the stuffing will expand as it cooks. Using skewers, attach the neck skin to the back and fold wings across the back with wings touching. Finally, tie the drumsticks together or tuck under the band of skin at tail.
4. If you are not stuffing your turkey, then fill cavities with various fruits like lemons, oranges, or apples or season with herbs. Then, close up the cavities as described in step 3.

I hope that these tips are helpful! Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the second installment in my Thanksgiving Series in which I offer directions and tips on roasting and carving the perfect turkey. See you then!


MAC said...

I love this site! I write cookbooks and I've found that most recipes are so complex that most young adults have no clue as to what they are reading. I write my recipes simple and in plain English. You do the same. Thank you for helping me teach these young people how to cook and understand what they are doing.